Before the last federal election, many of us had high hopes that the People’s Party would win enough votes to be in a place to win in the following election. I even thought that there was a chance the PPC could win.
Others were saying that the PPC could not win. Some said that the PPC would not win in any ridings and that Maxime Bernier, the PPC leader and only PPC candidate then in Parliament, would lose his own seat. Those people were right, and I was wrong.
Since the election, I have thought about why the PPC did not win, how the PPC could win, and the best way forward. My conclusion, unfortunately, is that the PPC now has even less chance of winning than in the previous election.
I know this is disappointing. As a candidate, it was disappointing for me to see the weak support for the PPC during the election. And it was painful to see the party wiped out in the election, with no seats, and less than 2% of the popular vote.
To know the way forward, it is important to understand why this happened.
Before and during the election, the polls were showing the PPC at anywhere from 1% to 3% support. There were PPC candidates and supporters who thought that this was ‘fake news,’ that the polls were manipulated or falsely reported or just plain wrong. The polls were right, and we were wrong.
There is a simple psychological explanation for why we were wrong; the Reverse Dunning-Kruger effect. The psychologists, Dunning and Kruger, showed that people, on average, think that they are smarter than they are. The reverse of this is also true, smart people think that everyone else is as smart as them. Because you know that PPC policy is good, you think other people will see the same thing.
There is also a simpler explanation; people judge others by looking at themselves and assume others think the same way. In reality, people think differently, and they often see the same thing in a dramatically different way.
Take the idea of small government for example. Some people see this idea as being smart and responsible, others see it as being miserly, greedy, and selfish. Your point of view on this will depend on your own knowledge and experience, as well as your own beliefs and biases.
The PPC policy platform is excellent, almost flawless. I had assumed that if everyone was aware of the platform, they will vote PPC. The only barrier, I thought, was the media, we needed to get our message out. I was wrong. Most people do not have the ability to understand policy and understand its benefits.
I also did not understand how conservative people are. While campaigning, I was told by Conservative Party supporters that they liked the PPC but had always voted Conservative and could not change. I was told by one Liberal supporter that “Trudeau can do whatever he wants, I will always vote Liberal.” That Liberal voter is actually very conservative in the sense that people do not change easily.
This inability or unwillingness to change has been noted for a long time by social scientists. The institutions of a society change very slowly because people are tied to traditions and beliefs which take a long time to change. New policy is about changing those institutions, if new ideas are very different from the current status quo, then it will take a long time to make those changes. And, ultimately, a political party has never been the best way to change people’s fundamental beliefs and traditions.
Based on this, we must consider, realistically, the chances of the PPC to win in the next election, or in any future election.
I believe that the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois were able to quickly build support because they were seen by their supporters as a regional protest vote. The policy did not matter much, people were voting based on emotion, they felt rejected by the rest of the country and needed a way to express their outrage and indignation, to send a message to the rest of the country.
One of the founding concepts of the PPC, and often its central message, has been Canadian nationalism. The PPC attempted to ignite the same passions as a regional party, but at a national scale. Unfortunately, this fell flat. And it does not look as though it will gain the party much support in the future.
In fact, because everyone sees things differently, there are many people who do not understand the positive aspects of this policy and only see the negative ones, and there are negative ones. Quebec separatism is based on nationalism. The world wars were largely based on nationalism.
Promoting Canadian culture and avoiding control of Canada by undemocratic international institutions are desirable goals, and those are the focus of PPC policy. But when nationalism has so many negative historical associations it makes it difficult to communicate this message. In fact, these associations likely result is less support for the PPC, not more.
Given these conditions, the PPC has little chance to win an election any time soon, if ever. An alternative, and the only way currently open to the PPC as a political party, would be to play an advocacy role.
The People’s Party did bring attention to many issues that did not get support from any other party, the elimination of Supply Management is a good example. And there is evidence that the Conservative Party did move closer to some PPC policy points to prevent voters from switching to the PPC.
Historically, many people believe that the NDP, which has never been in power, was able to push the main Canadian political parties to adopt policies, such as universal health care, to preserve support and prevent growth in support for the NDP.
The downside to this approach, however, is that the NDP has often split the vote on the left, resulting in the Conservatives winning over the Liberals. Vote splitting is even more of a risk on the political right. In effect, the right has less support than the left in Canada, and the Conservatives have often only won due to the split on the left.
I was able to ignore the vote splitting risk in the last election for two reasons. The first, is that I thought the PPC had a chance to win. I was wrong. The second, is that I thought the Conservatives had no chance to win anyway. At least I got one thing right.
Going forward, it is more difficult for me to support the PPC, knowing that they cannot win. The risk of vote splitting is much more real to me knowing that, even if the PPC does better than last time, the only practical outcome will be a split vote on the right. Victory for the PPC is just not a realistic possibility given the conditions I outlined above.
There is even a realistic possibility that the PPC could do worse next time. The first time out, there was at least a possibility of winning. Now that we know the results from the first election, we know that winning next time is unlikely. This will give even more people concern about vote splitting, as in my case, resulting in less support. Others who voted for the PPC to win, will also be less likely to vote for the party now that it is clear the PPC cannot win.
An alternative would be for the PPC to covert itself into an advocacy organization focused on certain issues such as eliminating Supply Management and reforming our relationships with international institutions. This organization could work on the, admittedly slow, process of convincing Canadians and the main political parties of the need for reforms.
As a political party, the PPC runs the risk of an even worse showing in the next election. And if results were slightly better, we run the risk of a vote split on the right. Neither of these is a desirable outcome.
This article originally appeared as a series of tweets on Twitter. It outlines some of the reasons that I think the PPC lost the last election and why the party is unlikely to win any time soon. I offer this commentary to help the party change if possible but also to encourage people to focus on what can be done to create a better government, and a better society from inside and outside of government.
I think if the PPC wanted to recover from it's poor showing in the last election there was a need for a fundamental overhaul. Going into the next election with more of the same would only result in more of the same. The PPC would become the next Green party, or worse; with more single digit results, or even below 1%. I have yet to see anything that would indicate even the slightest change or any indication that the party sees a need for change.
My comments from Twitter follow:
I joined the People's Party because the party was against dishonesty, corruption, and government waste. But I had reservations from the start about the close association of the party with libertarians and libertarian principles.
It seemed like a bad idea to base a party on principles that few Canadians support. The Libertarian Party of Canada has never got more than 1% of the vote. And personally, I do not support these principles myself.
Initially, I thought that the libertarian ideas of extremely limited (or no) government were simply idealistic and impractical. The COVID-19 outbreak revealed to me that some libertarians are motivated by an extreme individualism and unwillingness to help others.
I believe in a society where people care about each other and help each other. I believe in a society where we protect and help our most vulnerable. The PPC seemed to be working in this direction with its policy to support veterans and First Nations.
The party does, however, seem to be inextricably tied to the libertarian movement and its principles. The PPC has absorbed so many libertarians that the Libertarian Party practically collapsed in the last election.
There are two problems with this. One is personal: I do not agree with libertarian principles, especially not those that would justify abandoning our most vulnerable Canadians. The other is a problem for the party: most Canadians don’t agree with libertarian principles.
I am left feeling that the PPC is tied to an ideology that can't win and which I do not support. Most Canadians want big generous government. To eliminate waste, corruption and dishonesty is desirable but calling for small government scares people.
Canadians have only ever brought to power one of two parties: The Conservatives or the Liberals. In recent history, both parties have only ever promised big government and have won by doing so. The only other parties, the NDP and the Greens, want even bigger government.
Canadians, however, are fundamentally conservative in the sense that they won't easily change their views, or their parties. They have changed to new parties because of regional alienation, as in the case of the Bloc or Reform, but they rarely change because of ideology.
Canadians prefer evolution, not revolution, when it comes to political change. That is how the Conservatives and Liberals became entrenched, and that is not likely to change soon or change fast.
It seems that the only roads open to improving government in Canada are from within one of the two ruling parties of Canada, or though journalism and activism.
Former PPC candidate, Gene Balfour, has suggested to "Transform the People’s Party of Canada from a registered political party to a national advocacy enterprise with the mandate to facilitate the election efforts of Independent candidates"
Link to Gene's Article
Nationalism has similarly become a boat anchor for the PPC. The importance of culture to a nation is indisputable but framing the issue as nationalism has attracted support for the party from questionable sources and, overall, it is losing the party more support than it gains.
In a grand irony, many libertarians support open borders. It is implausible that these two ideologies can exist in the same party for long. The best solution may be to distance from both. But that still would not overcome the loyalty of Canadians to our two major parties.
I will continue to watch the progress of the PPC with interest. I have learned a lot by being a party member and former candidate. I hope that the party, and party supporters, will be able to find a way to create better government in Canada.
In the meantime, I will be working as best I can on ways to improve the lives of Canadians from outside of government. I hope that many of you will be doing the same.
The People’s Party is a party of personal responsibility and public service. These two values are the foundation of modern civilization.
Our civilization is on the verge of collapse – even though most people are unaware of it – because the elites in our society have been undermining these important foundations by promoting passive receptiveness, selfishness, and greed.
This has not been caused exclusively by socialist influences. Conservatives have also been guilty of promoting materialistic self-interest to such an extreme that it harms our society and our civilization.
The People’s Party is not exclusively a party of the right, and certainly not – as often suggested by the corrupt and biased media – of the far-right. Our party seeks to provide better services to Canadians in need. But we know this can only happen in a society where people take responsibility for themselves, as well as for others.
A country can only have effective welfare programs when most people refuse to take welfare. By encouraging passive receptiveness, the elites are making our welfare systems less sustainable and moving us further away from the compassionate society that they claim is their goal.
Only when people have a strong sense of personal responsibility, will they prefer to work rather than take handouts. This creates a virtuous circle of consequences.
Fewer people on welfare, means welfare services can be more generous and take better care of people who are truly in need. It also results in lower taxes, so those who work can keep more of what they earn. Life becomes easier for both those on welfare and those who work.
The elites have been promoting a culture of blame, victimhood, and division. They divide our society into groups based on gender, race, national origin, religion, language, and culture. They then tell people they must not take responsibility for any social problem; they must blame others.
The People’s Party is working to unite Canadians by returning to the fundamental principal of treating all people equally. We are working to build personal responsibility and public service – to create a more stable, more prosperous, more generous, and more compassionate society.
As a party we can actively promote the values of personal responsibility and public service. We can become involved in direct public service: working with our youth, our elderly, our homeless, our veterans, and our First Nations communities.
We can act as both a service organization and a political party – serving the Canadian people and solving problems even before we have power politically. This can also be an effective way to build awareness and support while strengthening our team so that we are ready for the next election.
Winning is not about crossing the finish line and winning a gold medal. Winning is the cumulative effect of hard work, persistence, and continuous improvement. It’s about practice and getting better imperceptibly every day.
According to Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, people either have a fixed or a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset think they can’t improve; the way they are now is the way they will always be. People with a growth mindset know that they can improve – they see failure as a learning experience.
You can see these two mindsets in how people look at the performance of the People’s Party.
Some look at the PPC at 2% in the polls and they see it as a fixed evaluation of support for the PPC for all time. They see no room for growth, no possibility for change.
Other people look at the same performance with a growth mindset. They see the direction that things are heading and the wide-open opportunities for growth.
In the graph below, the black line represents the view of someone with a fixed mindset, and the blue line the view of someone with a growth mindset. Both are now looking at the point where the lines cross at 2%. Each of them sees the future differently.
The person with the fixed mindset sees 2% forever into the future and no point in continuing. The person with the growth mindset sees an upward trend toward victory.
The Green Party won only 0.2% of the vote in it’s first election and did not get more than 1% of the vote for 20 years, and only won it’s first seat 30 years after the founding of the party.
The Reform Party got 2% of the vote, and no seats, in the first election after it’s founding. Five years later they got 19% and 52 seats.
The PPC now has 315 candidates who have practice at running in an election, and thousands more volunteers who worked on those campaigns. We have struggled and we have made mistakes. We will reorganize, we will improve, we will work hard, and soon –we will win.
The men and women who serve with our police forces are the thin blue line standing between order and chaos in society. Active members of the People’s Party are a thin purple line standing for freedom and against authoritarian control by a corrupt elite.
It was a struggle for most PPC candidates in this past election. The average campaign only got a dozen volunteers or so, and about the same number of donors – often the same people. Since the average riding has a population of about one hundred thousand, that works out to one in every ten thousand people contributing in any way to the campaign.
This is the thin purple line.
That’s one one-hundredth of one percent of the population, a very thin line fighting for Canada to be free.
It reminds me of the state of the world in 1940, at the beginning of the Second World War. The Nazis had taken over many countries in Europe, leaving only about a half-dozen countries in the world free and fighting for freedom.
Canada was one of those countries.
We defeated the Nazis, and then the Communists, and now over 100 countries are free and democratic. We are now again fighting for our freedom, and we cannot leave the battlefield until the fight is won.
The corrupt elites are a tiny group of people, less than one in a hundred thousand. They are already afraid of us, since we are ten times bigger and growing. Soon we will be one hundred times bigger, and eventually one thousand times bigger than they are.
We need ordinary Canadians to become active in our politics, and active in solving the problems of our communities and our nation. These Canadians will be the one percent who will strengthen our thin purple line and will save our country from chaos and corruption.
The People's Party is the party around which these ordinary Canadians will organize. We are the party which upholds truth, opposes corruption, and fights for all Canadians.